The Mighty Logo

Getting a Tattoo After a Mastectomy Can Be Empowering

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Did you know there are 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the United States? Many of the survivors are left with scars due to mastectomies. Physical appearance has a huge impact on self-esteem in complex ways. We all want to believe we don’t care how people think of us,  but often that is not the reality. Many women want to feel beautiful and might work hard to be beautiful. But when you hear a breast cancer diagnosis, many of us feel concerned about our life, our families and our physical appearance.

After having a biopsy, I had a scar and thought I could live with that scar with no problem. I didn’t like having scars, but having my life was more important. Then I received the news that I had breast cancer and needed a lumpectomy. A lumpectomy takes a portion of your breast tissue out leaving your breast with less mass and more scars. The scars after a lumpectomy are more noticeable than those from a biopsy.

I looked down at myself and wasn’t happy with how I looked. Spring time was just around the corner and then summer. As petty as it might sound, all I could think of was tank tops, bikinis and how I would look like in my summer dresses. Little did I know that by then, my natural breasts wouldn’t be a part of me. I needed a mastectomy and had reconstruction completed immediately afterwards. Yes, more scars and no nipples, but I’m certainly glad to be alive and healthy today.

When I look in the mirror, I see the mark of cancer. It’s foreign and holds bad memories. More and more women are getting tattoos after having mastectomies. Why would you want to go through more pain and the hassle of a tattoo? After a mastectomy, skin tissue can be left numb, so getting a tattoo can be pain-free or less painful for some. Breast cancer may narrow our options in appearance, but in my opinion, being able to choose a tattoo and how exactly you want to look can bring the power back to the woman.

The organization called P-ink helps women find the right tattoo artist in their area to give them a tattoo over their mastectomy scar. Tattoos give the power and choice back to the women instead of cancer leaving the last devastating mark on their body. P-ink is an all volunteer organization that is available to serve breast cancer survivors to feel beautiful inside and out.

What started out as a small organization to help women, quickly turned into a movement that has helped women from all over the country. P-ink Day started in Brooklyn in 2013 with the help of crowd funding, where 10 women with mastectomy scars were able to have tattoos completed by talented tattoo artists. From there, in 2015, 45 women were able to get their tattoos.

Personally, I live with my scars, but I’m seriously starting to consider getting a mastectomy tattoo. Why should breast cancer have the last mark on my body?

Thinkstock image by vladans

Originally published: March 13, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home